Various Artists
Como Now - The Voices of Panola, Co., Mississippi

[Daptone, www.daptonerecords.com]

In the summer of 2006, the minds behind Daptone Records put an ad in a Panola County [Mississippi] newspaper. Along with this ad, radio adverts invited singers to appear at Mt. Mariah Church in order to record their songs. Resulting recording made over a span of one day is entitled "Como Now - The Voices of Panola Co., Mississippi". An exhilarating take on deep south soul, the record features a number of strong performances from people who take their vocal prowess seriously. Many of these performances centre on spirituals. We've got Della Daniels and Ester Mae Smith with their rousing take on "Jesus Build a Fence Around Me", along with Como Mamas featuring Mary Moore and their ecstatic "God's Unchanging Hand". With each track, the songs become stronger and the voices are more distinct. No surprise, Irene Stevenson's "Lil Old Church House" ends up bringing tears to my eyes. Much of this music recalls field recordings undertaken in the past in the deep south but the record's producers are quick to point out, this is meant to reflect the contemporary music scene. These voices speak of sorrow, pain but yet, there's such a flurry of joy that one can't contain a positive glow that ends up emanating. Choruses are perfectly timed and the emotions are clearly expressed in each one of the album's sixteen tracks. A cappella music has rarely sounded this soulful, this real and this honest. If you're forced to buy only a few records this year, make sure "Como Now" is amongst that batch.

- Tom Sekowski


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